21st Minute, Rashid Yekini, Nigeria v Bulgaria, 1994 World Cup Group Stage
After the success of Cameroon in the 1990 World Cup, African nations had gained a lot of respect on the international scene and their players had started to sign for some of Europe’s biggest clubs. Two months before the World Cup in the USA, Nigeria won the African Cup of Nations which was a major morale boost and made the teams in their groups sit up and take notice. Top scorer and best player in that tournament in Tunisia was Nigeria striker Rashid Yekini and hopes were high that he could fire the Super Eagles out the group and attempt to equal Cameroon’s 1990 quarter final appearance.
In their opening match of the World Cup they faced Bulgaria, a match which brought the West African nation to a standstill.
Nigeria’s early pressure produces a superb goal full of flair and pace with an iconic celebration to go with it…
What Happened Next?
Nigeria continued to dominate the Eastern Europeans and they romped to a 3-0 victory. A defeat against Argentina in their next game meant they needed something from their final group match against Greece. Once again we saw the Nigerians at their best, with a performance full of verve and vigour gave them a 2-0 victory and top spot in the group. In the last 16 they faced Italy and froze on the big occasion, despite leading for much of the game they allowed themselves to be dominated by the Italians who eventually wore them down despite Nigeria having an extra man from the seventy-fifth minute onwards and through extra-time. Roberto Baggio scored at the end of the ninety minutes and again in extra-time to send the Super Eagles home.
1994 was the highlight of Yekini’s career as he became a bit of journeyman in Europe and Africa afterwards. He sadly passed away in 2012 at the age of forty-eight in unclear circumstances. He was always a very private man and was said to have suffered from depression throughout his life, especially in retirement. He also felt embittered towards the Nigerian fans who turned on him towards the end of his international career and was angry with the Nigerian government who never delivered on their promise to give him a house for his achievements in 1994. He remains as Nigeria’s best ever player in the eyes of many.
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